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$75,000 Settlement for Untreated Wisconsin Methadone Patient

Outagamie County, Wisconsin, has agreed to pay $75,000 to a man whose withdrawal from
methadone went untreated at the county jail.

Richard Foelker was participating in a methadone treatment program for heroin addiction when
he checked himself into the Outagamie County Jail on April 27, 2000, to serve a sentence for
driving under the influence. At intake Foelker told jailers and a nurse that he had been taking
methadone for approximately five weeks and that he had not taken his dose that day. The next
day Foelker was evaluated by the jail's nursing coordinator. She determined his methadone
therapy should not be continued since he had already been off it for three days.

Withdrawal from methadone is very serious and can result in death if untreated. Nevertheless, on the afternoon of Foelker's third day, registered nurse Brian Schertz recommended transferring him to the general population. Just an hour later Schertz was told that Foelker had defecated on himself and the cell floor. After opining that Foelker was merely playing the system, Schertz grudgingly asked social worker Diane Mandler to evaluate him. Mandler noted Foelker was disoriented, confused, experiencing auditory hallucinations, and unaware he had soiled himself. She recommended observing him.

Foelker was still hallucinating the next day so the jail's doctor prescribed thiamine, a vitamin
used with alcohol withdrawal. When his condition failed to improve after several hours, Foelker
was taken to the hospital. Doctors there diagnosed him with delirium secondary to drug
withdrawal and hospitalized him for four days before allowing his return to the jail.

Foelker sued the County, Schertz, and Mandler in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin alleging they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. The district court conceded that Foelker had shown a serious medical need, but ultimately dismissed his complaint after concluding he had not demonstrated the defendants were deliberately indifferent.

As previously reported in PLN [February 2006, p. 12], a three-judge panel of the U.S. Seventh
Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. In their ruling--Foelker v. Outagamie County, 394 F.3d 510
(7th Cir. 2005)--the majority concluded both that Foelker had demonstrated a serious medical
need and that a jury could reasonably infer the defendants were deliberately indifferent to those

After the case was remanded to the district court, the parties reached a $75,000 settlement
agreement through mediation. Foelker was represented by attorney Jeff Scott Olson of Olson Law Offices in Madison, Wisconsin. See: Foelker v. Outagamie County, USDC ED WI, Case No. 00-C-1464.

Source: Wisconsin Verdicts & Settlements

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Related legal case

Foelker v. Outagamie County